A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Woman Confronts the Legacy of Apartheid

a human being died that night

Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is a South African psychologist who participated in her country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which sought to illuminate and heal the traumas suffered under apartheid.  After the Commission concluded its hearings, she traveled to Pretoria's maximum-security prison to interview Eugene de Kock, who is serving a 212-year sentence for his crimes as the head of apartheid's state-sanctioned death squads.

A Human Being Died That Night is a remarkable exploration of the nature of evil, remorse, and forgiveness.  By weaving accounts of her interviews with de Kock alongside in-depth explorations of the psychology of apartheid, Gobodo-Madikizela probes the depths of both human hatred and empathy.

Trigger warnings for sexual assault, torture, and violence against both adults and children.

"When de Kock spoke about his past, his recollections seemed to reflect some of the same factors that led others to reduce him to a label.  There were times when he described details of his violent past with a vividness that was frightening.  He had belonged to a world that created violence, I to a world that was the object of this violence; he belonged to a world where morality meant the same thing as hate, and I to a world that knew the difference.  Our worlds were the black and white of lies and truth, and yet as de Kock spoke, the boundaries of our worlds did not always seem so clear."

Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is a psychologist, professor, and author.  Born in Cape Town, South Africa, she grew up during apartheid and later served as a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  Her published works include A Human Being Died that Night; Narrating Our Healing: Perspectives on Working through Trauma; and Memory, Narrative and Forgiveness: Perspectives on the Unfinished Journeys of the Past.

Published:  2003
Length:  148 pages (excluding endnotes)
Set in:  Pretoria and Cape Town, South Africa